Gold witnessed volatility on Monday, pulling back from a one-month peak hit earlier in the session, but it still remained the best performer among metals so far this year after its worst annual debacle since 1981 last year.
After some fluctuations, spot gold remained flat, compared with Friday's close, at $1,246.20 an ounce at 1010 GMT, while February US futures lost $1.10 an ounce at $1,245.80. The metal is still up 3.4% this year, thanks to robust Chinese purchases ahead of the Lunar New Year later this month, after prices dropped by 28% last year following 12 straight annual advances.
Despite expectations of a gradual pick-up in the US economy this year, copper—which reflects the health of the global economy — has lost nearly 1% so far this year as top consumer China is well stocked up, while price rise in other metals remained subdued, said analysts.
Earlier in the session, gold prices breached through chart resistance to hit $1,254.05 an ounce in their loftiest rally since December 12, as some investors thought the lowest monthly job addition in the US in three years last month could prompt a review by the Federal Reserve of its policy of gradual rollback of bullion-friendly stimulus.
However, the realisation that dismal jobs data could be temporary as extreme cold weather conditions might have had an impact on hiring prompted a retreat by investors, said analysts. This was aided by a drop in premiums for gold with 99.9% purity to $17 on Monday on the Shanghai Gold Exchange from $18 on Friday, reflecting a moderation in Chinese demand, they added.
Analysts, however, are conservative about a sustained rally in the precious metal this year unless Indian demand stages a significant rebound, as the tapering is expected to keep its own pace.
The Fed's quantitative easing was a key factor driving gold prices to record highs in recent years. It kept interest rates at rock bottom, cutting the opportunity cost of holding gold while stoking inflation fears.
Gold output in China gained 7% from a year earlier to reach 392.141 tonne in the January-November period from a year before, China